The Chicago Cubs lefty masher has been acquired! Jose Martinez, come on down!!!
Jeff Passan with the news:
Designated hitter Jose Martinez has been traded to the Chicago Cubs, sources tell ESPN. Two PTBNLs headed back to Tampa Bay. The Cubs get a lefty masher and the Rays now may get to give more ABs to Randy Arozarena, whom they acquired with Martinez in a trade this offseason.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 30, 2020
You know Martinez well as the late-blooming Cardinals bat, who trailed off a bit offensively in recent years and is now 32:
For his career, Martinez has destroyed lefties to the tune of a .319/.392/.554 line with a 153 wRC+. The last two years, those numbers are down to .295/.362/.543 (139), but that’s still quite strong. And it’s not as if he’s unplayable against righties.
Where he is unplayable, of course, is in the field. He can maybe cover a spot for a minute and not absolutely kill you, but he’s mostly just a bat. With the Cubs, he’d slot in as the DH against lefties, and might occasionally get a corner outfield start.
Martinez is owed about $350,000 the rest of the way, so he’s not a HUGE expense addition, but in a year like this, that’s a pretty significant increase to the payroll – I wonder if the Rays are kicking in some money. To that end, the quality of the PTBNLs the Cubs are sending will probably depend a bit on the cash.
Keep in mind: this year, only players on the 60-man can be traded at the moment, so the inclusion of PTBNLs here doesn’t necessarily mean the Cubs aren’t giving up some value. It just means they are two prospects not on the 60-man.
How good of prospects? Well, it depends a bit on whether you value the extra years of team control that Martinez comes with (he’s controllable through arbitration for two more seasons). His scheduled salary this year was $2.125 million, so if he was tendered a contract in arbitration after this year, you’re probably talking about, what, $3+ million for 2021? As a bat-only guy whose offense may be in decline, I’m not so sure that’s worth a tender at that price point. In which case, acquiring a guy with “extra years of team control” doesn’t actually hold any additional value, and that would be reflected in the quality of the prospects.
On the balance, though, it’s at least nice to have the option to tender Martinez if you think he could still rake for another year, and if the NL has the DH permanently in 2021.
Tentatively, I’d expect the prospects to be guys you know – maybe even guys you like – but not necessarily types that you’re outraged to lose for a guy who could be an impact bat against lefties down the stretch.
We’ll dig in more on Martinez soon.
UPDATE: Interesting wording in the officially official announcement, with the Cubs giving up “a player to be named or cash consideration as well as a player to be named or cash consideration.” In normal times, that’d be the language you’d associate with “meh” prospects. But again, this year, every non-60-man player has to be a PTBNL. And then you throw on the “or cash consideration” language, perhaps, as a condition on the season not finishing. It might be a minute before we really know what the Cubs give up.